Les Hinton, one of Rupert Murdoch's closest associates, has quit as the chief executive of Dow Jones, becoming the most senior executive to be forced out over the News International phone-hacking scandal.
Hinton was the chairman of News International between 1995 and 2007, a period during which the News of the World is known to have illegally hacked phones. His resignation ends a 52-year association with News Corporation, a period during which he became one of Murdoch's most trusted lieutenant.
In a statement released by News Corporation, the Dow Jones chief said he had no choice but to walk the plank. His resignation followed the earlier announcement by Rebekah Brooks that she had quit News International.
"I have watched with sorrow from New York as the News of the World story has unfolded," Hinton said.
"That I was ignorant of what apparently happened is irrelevant and in the circumstances I feel it is proper for me to resign from News Corp and apologise to those hurt by the actions of News of the World."
His resignation from the US-based Dow Jones confirms that the scandal embroiling News Corporation's British operations is increasingly having transatlantic implications. Hinton took the top job at The Wall Street Journal's owner in December 2007 when News Corporation bought the company.
"Les and I have been on a remarkable journey together for more than 52 years. That this passage has come to an unexpected end, professionally, not personally, is a matter of much sadness to me," Rupert Murdoch said.
Hinton began as a reporter for the now-defunct tabloid The News in Adelaide, a few years after Murdoch took control of the paper. He became a foreign correspondent before moving into executive ranks in Britain and the United States.
Standard-bearer for the 'rogue reporter' defence
The 67-year-old was closely identified with News International's long-held but incorrect claim that phone hacking at the News of the World was confined to "one rogue reporter": the royal editor Clive Goodman, jailed alongside the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.
In the aftermath of Goodman's conviction in 2007, Hinton told the culture, media and sport select committee that he was convinced there was no evidence of phone hacking beyond Goodman.
Responding to a question asking whether News International had undertaken a "full, rigorous" investigation, Hinton replied: "Yes, we have and I believe he was the only person, but that investigation, under the new editor, continues."
Two and a half years later, he reiterated those remarks and insisted that there was nothing to suggest wider involvement in phone hacking at the tabloid.
"There was never any evidence delivered to me suggesting that the conduct of Clive Goodman spread beyond him," he told the select committee in September 2009, adding that anyone found to have been involved in illegal activities would have been fired.
In his Friday announcement, Hinton said that he gave those responses in good faith.
"My testimonies before the culture, media and sport select committee were given honestly... If others had evidence that wrongdoing went further, I was not told about it," he said.
On Sunday, it was revealed that an internal report prepared in 2007 pointed to evidence of widespread criminal behaviour at the News of the World, based on an analysis of around 2,500 emails. Hinton was named in reports as one of the executives who had access to that report; another was the company lawyer Tom Crone, who resigned earlier this week.
The News of the World phone-hacking scandal moved to centre stage one and a half weeks ago after allegations emerged that journalists from the tabloid had hacked the phone of the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, interfering with a missing persons investigation and giving her family false hope that she was still alive.
That was followed by a flood of new revelations involving - among others - the parents of the 2002 Soham murder victims and grieving relatives from the 2005 London bombings.
Yesterday, Rupert Murdoch finally met with Milly Dowler's family - five days after he arrived in Britain - to apologise for the hacking of Milly's phone.
Have your say: join the forum discussion or submit a comment below.